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Land use planning, zoning ordinance, policies, and design criteria play a key role in achieving watershed management objectives and protecting water resources. Watershed based zoning can employ an array of tools to mitigate the potential impacts of developments by reducing impervious surfaces, promoting storm water infiltration, and preserving open space and wetlands. A thorough review of existing ordinances and policies can help the local decision makers understand the connection between these requirements and an effective program to preserve and restore water resources. A number of evaluation strategies and model ordinances have been developed for use by watershed groups and local government officials.

This paper presents three evaluation methods used in three case studies. One method, developed by the Center for Watershed Protection in Maryland, uses a Code and Ordinance Worksheet (COW), which asks questions based on 22 development principles focusing on imperviousness requirements for transportation, land use requirements for housing, and preservation requirements for natural resources. Another method, developed by the Land Information Access Association through the Dowagiac River Watershed project, provides a more simple analysis of a communities rules through identifying the communities resource concerns, then documenting how the master plan and the zoning ordinances supported those concerns. One community developed their own evaluation method using a combination of the COW, ideas and concerns brought forth from a Policy Committee, formed under a local watershed planning project, and the Opportunities for Water Resource Protection in Local Plans, Ordinances, and Program workbook developed by the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments. Background information about the importance of planning, Michigan planning laws and regulations, and an overview of the connections between master plans, land use maps, and zoning ordinances is also included in the paper. The paper concludes with the results of those evaluations and the follow-up that the communities have conducted in changing their development rules to further protect natural resources.


Galien River Watershed – Community Planning Workshop

The Galien River Watershed communities worked together for two years to develop the Galien River Watershed Management Plan. A Community Planning Workshop was organized with officials and planners from the townships and villages within the Galien River Watershed to review their development and land use regulations. The participants evaluated their ordinances, storm water criteria, design specifications and standards, building codes, and any other documents that shape how development happens in their community by using the COW and the Dowagiac River Watershed analysis method.

Sanilac County Lakeshore Watersheds – Policy Committee

Communities in eastern Sanilac County formed a Policy Committee, as part of the Sanilac County Lakeshore Watersheds planning project, to ensure that the watershed planning process resulted in recommendations that were consistent with the Sanilac County s Master Plan that was being updated. The Policy Committee created their own evaluation process using the various methods available.

City of Midland – Policy Review Document

The City of Midland participated in the Sturgeon Creek Watershed project by reviewing their ordinances and regulations in terms of watershed protection. An analysis was performed using the COW method and the results were presented to the City of Midland in a Policy Review Document (PRD).
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 January 2004

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